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2009 National Lacrosse League season thread


Viper

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NLL training camps are in full swing, and the league's 23rd season gets underway just after Christmas! (Not to be confused with John Christmas, of course.) Here are some of the big stories around the league heading into the 2009 NLL season:

  • In spite of the current economic troubles, a league known for its historically high rate of franchise turnover enters the season with none of its teams having moved or folded over the offseason (unless you count the Arizona Sting, who suspended operations after the '07 season but didn't "officially" go under for another year). In fact the league has even added a team, the reincarnated Boston Blazers.
  • The Rochester Knighthawks lose a major star to a knee infection (John Grant Jr.) but gain a living legend (Gary Gait, who has come out of retirement to play for the Hawks).
  • Another NLL legend, Jim Veltman, moves behind the Toronto Rock bench, while his nephews Daryl and Peter join the Blazers; in Daryl's case, as the #1 overall pick in September's NLL draft.
  • The New York Titans' arena woes continue. Once again they are limited to seven games in the NYC/NJ market (two at MSG and the rest at Prudential Center in Newark), with the remaining home date, their nominal home opener vs. the Rock, shifted to Miami.
  • To make way for the Blazers, the Minnesota Swarm have shifted to the West Division, though ten of their sixteen games will be against Eastern clubs. Even so, they seem to be a popular preseason pick to win the division. Good thing I renewed my season tickets. :)
  • The Edmonton Rush are the stars of "Extreme Makeover: NLL Edition". After an abysmal first half of the '08 season head coach/GM Bob Hamley went on a wheeling-and-dealing frenzy that carried over into the offseason. They finished '08 strong and enter '09 as the dark horses of the league.
  • Then there are the Portland LumberJax, they of the plaid alternate jerseys and the insane playoff run in '08, coming within an eyelash of taking the Buffalo Bandits into sudden-death OT in the Cup final. They also feature perhaps the most unique player-owner relationship in all of North American professional sports: Jax transition man Adam Bysouth is married to the team's owner Angela Batinovich (a fashion designer who helped create the Jax' aforementioned plaid alts). And in October they welcomed daughter Avery into the world. That has to make for some interesting locker-room dynamics between Bysouth and his teammates.

I'll post my own predictions for the season later. For now I just want to get the season thread going. Game on!

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Wait.. how can the Swarm be in the West but play most of their games against the East? Something seems fishy about that.

In addition to high franchise turnover, the NLL is also known for its, shall we say, quirky regular-season scheduling. They don't have hard-and-fast scheduling formulas like most other leagues. This is necessary because most NLL players have "real jobs" during the week and not only have to be flown in from their hometowns by the teams for home games and practices, but flown from their hometowns directly to away game sites. As a result most East Division teams field teams of predominantly eastern-based players, to minimize travel costs and otherwise mitigate the logistical nightmare; likewise for the West Division teams with western-based players. At a league-wide level, the scheduling is also done with logistics in mind. In the case of the Swarm, they are moving from the East to the West, so they still have a mostly eastern-based roster, and therefore they were given an East-heavy schedule to help smooth the transition.

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Remember the remark I made about the NLL going into the season without having seen any teams fold or move?

Well, it seems I may have spoken too soon:

NLL Insider has learned from several sources that the current Chicago Shamrox’s ownership group, headed by Kevin Loughery Jr., is currently in the midst of trying to sell the franchise with an apparent deadline of Wednesday, Dec. 10.

It appears that if a deal cannot be reached with a new ownership group by their mid-week deadline, the team will simply fold, leaving the NLL with twelve teams heading into the 2009 season.

Stay tuned. If the Shamrox do indeed go under, the leaguewide fallout from roster changes (Anthony Cosmo to Boston in the dispersal draft, anyone?) and scheduling (for starters, two Swarm games, on Feb. 12 at Chicago and March 28 at Minnesota, would disappear or have to be rescheduled w/ other opponents) alone will be enough to turn the whole season on its ear. Good thing I haven't posted my predictions for the season yet...

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I'm glad to see that there are others on this board who actually care about lacrosse.

Go Rock Go!

I couldn't have put it better myself.

Sadly, we've seen attendance drop pretty big since the move from Hamilton/championship years.

I am glad that we get the games on sportsnet on a fairly regular basis now though.

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Take this with a grain of salt for now, but someone on the NLL Insider forums is claiming to have inside info that the Shamrox have indeed folded. (There is no official word on this posted anywhere else yet... not even on the team's Wikipedia page.)

Crap... this means all those Swarm schedules I sent out with Christmas cards are probably no good anymore. :cursing:

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Take this with a grain of salt for now, but someone on the NLL Insider forums is claiming to have inside info that the Shamrox have indeed folded. (There is no official word on this posted anywhere else yet... not even on the team's Wikipedia page.)

Crap... this means all those Swarm schedules I sent out with Christmas cards are probably no good anymore. :cursing:

the first entry in that thread is "draft on friday at noon".

Well it's 3:10 EST, and that's what time zone Chicago is in....and still no official word.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed, i'd hate to see the NLL loose another team. Seemed like Arizona was doing so well, and then they fold, we almost loose the league all together last seaon...now this.

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Well it's 3:10 EST, and that's what time zone Chicago is in....and still no official word.

We're Central, buddy. And dang proud of it.

my b

still.

no word.........even if my cred just went down the drain...lol

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NLL.com still has not made an announcement. However they have:

  1. Posted an article about a dispersal draft involving Shamrox players which was held today,
  2. Posted another article about a revised schedule, with Chicago nowhere to be found on it, and
  3. Removed the Shamrox team page from their main site nav menu.

In other words, it's a done deal now, even if the league doesn't care to admit it just yet.

R.I.P.

nllchicagosb5.png

2006-2008

We hardly knew ye...

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From the team site:

CHICAGO SHAMROX SUSPEND OPERATIONS OF TEAM

12/12/2008 3:17 PM

CHICAGO, IL December 5, 2008 ? The Chicago Shamrox Indoor Lacrosse Team announced today that the team has suspended operations for the 2009 season due to the current economic downturn.

?Like many of our loyal fans, I am disappointed with the decision to suspend operations for the 2009 season,? Chicago Shamrox President Phil Ryan said. ?I would like to thank all those that supported the Shamrox these past two years. Professional indoor lacrosse is a great sport and Chicago deserves to have a team. I hope we get a chance to do it again.?

A Dispersal Draft was help this afternoon at Noon CST where players of the Chicago Shamrox were drafted by member teams of the National Lacrosse League (NLL). For Dispersal Draft results, please visit the NLL web site at www.NLL.com.

For information on refunds on tickets already purchased, please contact the Chicago Shamrox Front Office at (877) SHAMROX.

- - - - -

Now, how do I set about getting a cheap deal on a jersey?

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Now that the Shamrox are history and the schedule has been altered, how do you think the 2009 regular season will turn out? Here are my predictions, and accompanying comments:

EAST DIVISION

  1. Philadelphia Wings (11-5): Loaded for bear, as usual. The only red flag on this team is goaltending. They have the sheer firepower to win the division and be dangerous in the playoffs, but need at least one of their goalies to step up his play to be considered the clear Champions' Cup favorites.
  2. Buffalo Bandits (10-6): Not a lot of new faces on the defending champs, but then why mess with success? They narrowly lose out to Philly in the East race, but with better netminding they look like the more likely of the two teams to actually make it to the Cup final.
  3. Rochester Knighthawks (9-7): Bye-bye Junior, hello (again) Gary Gait. The '07 champs underachieved last season, but I doubt either Junior (now an assistant coach) nor Gait (a de facto coach on the field) will let that happen this year. And as you may have noticed, they have a few other guys who can play.
  4. New York Titans (8-8): The "Little Orphan Annies" of the NLL still can't catch a break as far as landing a permanent home arena is concerned. That may be the one thing holding this up-and-coming team back from being a real powerhouse already. Even so, they get back into the playoffs and may even be good for another first-round upset.
  5. Boston Blazers (6-10): With the Shamrox out of the picture, the new kids on the NLL's block inherit the title of the East's dark horse. I don't think they're deep enough to be serious contenders yet, but with Dan Dawson, Daryl Veltman and now Anthony Cosmo falling into their laps, Blazers v2.0 should at least get off to a respectable start.
  6. Toronto Rock (5-11): With Jim Veltman gone from the turf to the front office, this looks like a "changing of the guard" season in Toronto. Bob Watson is one of the game's best netminders, but if goaltending is your team's strongest suit then you're still in trouble. I wonder if an Edmonton-style "extreme makeover" might not be on the horizon for this franchise.

WEST DIVISION

  1. Minnesota Swarm (10-6): Moving West after a breakthrough season in '08, and being talked up as Cup contenders for the first preseason in their short history. They definitely have the depth and the pieces in place for a playoff run, but can they peak at the right time this year?
  2. Colorado Mammoth (9-7): You can never count out this bunch of wily veterans who made it to the top of the mountain just three seasons ago. But is the window starting to close for the current Mammoth roster, one of the oldest in the league?
  3. San Jose Stealth (8-8): They won a crappy division with a 9-7 record last season. Alas, the West isn't quite as crappy anymore. And dealing away Cosmo sends up more red flags than a May Day parade in Beijing. But the Stealth do still have a solid nucleus with Doyle and Zywicki and won't go away quietly.
  4. Portland LumberJax (7-9): They won't set the NLL on fire, but even without Dan Dawson they've still got plenty of ballers in Portland, who have to be hungry as hell for the Cup after their insane playoff run last season. This year they won't wait quite as long to start making some noise.
  5. Calgary Roughnecks (7-9): Like the Stealth, it's not so much that the Riggers have slipped, as that the West looks to be a lot tougher this year. Still, Calgary remains a shot or two off the crossbar away from beating out the Stealth or the Jax for a playoff berth.
  6. Edmonton Rush (6-10): After starring in "Extreme Makeover: NLL Edition", it's finally time for the Rush to "Move... That... Bus!!!" All their new blood and new attitude should do the franchise some good, and they could even sneak into the playoffs, but are still too thin offensively to be legitimate contenders, especially as long as Andy Secore remains sidelined with his bum knee.

(Note: Cross-posted at the NLL Forums and The Hive.)

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I'm almost 100% with you on this viper, but i'd switch around Buffalo and Rodchester.

I mean Gary Gait is abit of a question mark, I understand that, but the Knighthawks youger players have got to feel like they have to play and train at a higher lever to be worthy of playing with this lacrosse legend, and that is why I think the Knighthawks will be 2nd, possibly even first (though it's hard to knock off the Wings).

I'm actually really excited to see your Swarm this season, I would be surprised if they push to the Champion's cup, but I still think Colorado will be a strong contender.

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I'm almost 100% with you on this viper, but i'd switch around Buffalo and Rodchester.

I mean Gary Gait is abit of a question mark, I understand that, but the Knighthawks youger players have got to feel like they have to play and train at a higher lever to be worthy of playing with this lacrosse legend, and that is why I think the Knighthawks will be 2nd, possibly even first (though it's hard to knock off the Wings).

I'm actually really excited to see your Swarm this season, I would be surprised if they push to the Champion's cup, but I still think Colorado will be a strong contender.

Yeah, I think the West is going to basically be a two-horse race between the Swarm and Mammoth. I don't see anyone else in this division with enough firepower to hang with them; the other teams will be battling for the other two playoff spots. But in the playoffs, pretty much anything can happen, as the Swarm learned the hard way last season when they got outplayed by a Titans team they had pwned in two regular-season meetings. If my predictions pan out, Minnesota ends up facing Portland in the first round, and that actually has me a little worried. Just a little, though. B)

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